Queen Elizabeth, fall leaves, and plants you've killed

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OK, Anglophiles, you need to start saving your pennies -- er, pounds: In April, Queen Elizabeth is opening the grounds of Buckingham Palace to anyone who pays a 20-pound admission fee. What an opportunity -- not in 400 years have the hoi polloi been able to wander the 39 acres and ogle the hundreds of plants.

Tours will take place only in April, May, and June and just when the queen isn't in residence. Groups of 25 will listen to a half-hour talk on the gardens' storied history and then be escorted through the garden.

Wonder what this will do to the queen's famous garden parties, about which I've written in the past?  They may not be as exciting, if anyone with about $34 can now visit the gardens. But then, the queen isn't likely to show up in the garden, shake a tourist's hand, and offer him a cup of tea, as can happen at the annual garden party.

Recommended: A Diamond Jubilee quiz: How well do you know Queen Elizabeth II?

Oh, the leaves
If you don't have fallen leaves on your mind this time of year, you're either not a gardener or a homeowner or you live in a hot climate where deciduous trees don't drop their leaves in fall.

Leaves are certainly on my mind, so I was surprised this morning to read in a e-mail newsletter from Fine Gardening magazine, "If you dread the annual fall leaf-raking marathon, we have good news for you: Raking and collecting leaves every autumn is a tradition without scientific basis." 

In the article, Terry Ettinger suggests that instead of raking, you set your lawn mower's blade height at 3 inches and mow over the leaves, letting the small pieces improve your soil. 

Whatever you do with your fall leaves, please don't put them out on the curb to go to the landfill.

It always amazes me when people get rid of their leaves in the fall and then pay good money in the spring to buy mulch and soil conditioners. Composting, or just piling up the leaves in a out-of-the way spot and letting them rot, is simple, saves money, and is good for the environment.  

Plants we've killed
Saying that confession is good for the soul, the Fine Gardening e-letter also took a hilarious look back at the growing season and the plants that didn't make it and why.  

I loved this entry: "1 rosemary plant (First I over-watered it. Then I under-watered it. Then it became infested with powdery mildew. Why, oh why do I buy that plant every year?)"

I'm always amazed at how well I do with rosemary. Why is a mystery to me. I even get it to live over winter -- in Boston! But I had a terrible time this spring with other plants.

OK, this is going to sound incredibly yucky to you suburban gardeners, but to us urban growers, rats are a fact of life, just as deer are for many of you. (And now rats have their own movie, "Ratatouille," just as deer have "Bambi.")

So all spring, as the UPS and FedEx delivery people would drop off cardboard boxes of exciting new plants, it turns out that the neighborhood's English sparrows and yes, rats, were looking forward to this interesting new greenery as much as I was. And they noshed away while I was at work.

Yes, I tried all sorts of remedies -- and a few worked. But I now have a list of plants that rats and birds seem not to care for. I can't imagine there's much call for such a list, but I can tell you that in June I was grateful for every plant that was left standing.

And I was especially impressed with several plants that were nibbled to nubs and grew anyway, becoming a respectable size during the summer. (I'll name names when I write about the plants I trialed this year.)

So I had some successes and some failures this year. How about you?

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